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Unanswered Questions

PCB Layout Software August 2017

I am a retired Field Service Engineer. Over a decade and a half after early retirement from IBM, a friend asked if an idea he had could be built. I assured him it could.

He offered me partnership if I would design and build a demonstration system. I designed, built, and programmed a system that works just like he wanted it to. An existing patent that I could find no work-around for expires this year. We'd like to have systems ready to go before we start doing demonstrations.

Now, I need to convert my proto-board to a more compact layout to be mass produced. The problem is that all the design software I've found requires that work be done online. Not even a simple schematic design without being on the Web.

I need recommendations for offline software to generate a file for use by a production service. All I'll need is a library of templates for basic TH mounting components. I do not intend to put the results out in the clouds because oftentimes when I look to the clouds, there be vultures about.

T. A. Rooks
Chelsea, AL

Oil Filled Caps August 2017

I’m trying to bring an old tube transmitter back to life. The power supply uses oil filled capacitors, which don't seem to have handy replacements. Assuming that I can change the oil to reduce the leakage current, what kind of oil is used?

Will motor oil work, for example?

William Helm
Eugene, OR

Laser Color Choice August 2017

I want to convert a 3D printer to a laser burning station to work with wood veneers and leather goods.

Any advice on the best type and color of laser to get? I’ve heard brown wood and leather reflect more red light and so I should use a blue laser.

Kyle Hoyos
Walkerton, IN

Salt Sensor July 2017

I have a water softener that needs pellet salt added to a brine tank. I’m trying to figure out a circuit to detect when I need to add salt as the tank is opaque and salt usage varies depending on use. The simpler the circuit, the better!

Salt Sensor
Greensboro, NC

Laser Eye Protection July 2017

With high powered laser prices dropping like crazy, I decided to pick up a 3W blue laser from eBay for $50 to experiment with.

I’m concerned about eye damage and would like some advice on eye protection. What makes a pair of laser goggles good and what should I stay away from?

Gary Byrum
Milwaukee, WI

Battery Killer July 2017

I have an older model Hunter SRC sprinkler controller that came with my house. Recently, the unit has been “resetting” to 12:00 am rather than keeping time. The unit has a nine volt battery that was reading 2.7V, so I replaced the battery. Within a week, the problem was back and the new battery was also dead (3.1V).

Any ideas what could be killing the batteries? I can’t find a schematic for this unit.

Norris Shaw
Santa Ana, CA

Ransomware Scare July 2017

There has been quite a bit of news lately about so-called “ransomware.” Can someone explain how it works and is there a fool-proof way to keep my machines (and those of my family) protected?

Jerry Turner
Joliet, IL

AQUABOT Pool Cleaner June 2017

A friend of mind asked me if I could fix her “PoolRover” pool sweeper. The timer does not work properly.

The power supply/controller has a big transformer and circuit board inside, and for a lack of ID, has a bar code P12909124848. I have looked high and low for a schematic for this unit, both with the manufacturer and on the Internet, but have come up blank. I started working on a start/stop timer from

Does anyone have any better solutions? Timer on for 30 seconds and off for two seconds, and back on again.

Terry Arnall
Hayward, CA

Unknown Power Supply For Monitors June 2017

I have three mini monitors but no power supplies, and would like to know what power supply to use. I have tried one of the three monitors using a 12 VDC at 500 mA supply and it came on for a nanosecond.

Since then, I have tried the same monitor several more times with the same supply, and also using my car’s battery, my lawn tractor’s battery, and even purchased and tried a 12 VDC at 1A supply all with the same results.

What is the power requirement for such mini monitors? I don’t want to burn any of them out using the trial and error method.

M Williams
St John, IN

Sequential Turn Signals June 2017

The simple way to do an automobile three-light sequential turn signal is to let the blinker turn on bulb #1 and then the circuit will do #2 and then #3; not a problem.

The problem is the brake lights that use the same filament in the bulbs. Hit the brakes so left and right will sequence once then stay lit, unless you hit the brake again.

Same with turning. One side sequences and if you hit the brake, the other side will sequence once and then stay lit while the turning direction is still sequencing. However, if you hit the brake, both sides will sequence once and then stay lit.

Proper function can be accomplished because aftermarket kits are available that do it correctly. Unfortunately, they are very expensive.

No matter what I think of, I cannot come up with any logic circuit that would prevent the brake indicator from sequencing once, i.e., blinker ON-OFF 12V, brake ON 12V; brakes only, ON 12V both sides.

Any simple ideas? Hope I do not need to program an IC. Guess I can always learn at 72 years old. Started reading N&V when it first began. Love it.

Daniel Zielinski
Port Saint Lucie, FL

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